Archive for November, 2014

Review of The Caller, by Juliet Marillier

Saturday, November 8th, 2014

caller_largeThe Caller

A Shadowfell Novel

By Juliet Marillier

Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2014. 437 pages.
Starred Review

The Caller is the third book in the trilogy begun in Shadowfell. You should definitely read the books in order. This is a wonderful culmination and completion of the story.

The book did not go as I expected. Neryn was planning to complete her training from the last two Guardians, and then go to the Gathering at Midsummer and Call the Uncanny Folk to fight on the side of the rebels. But early on, people and situations require her plans to be changed. The servants of the White Lady have been killed. The king, who rules the land with a reign of terror, has found a Caller of his own. He is planning to Call the folk to fight on his own side, and he doesn’t mean to ask nicely.

Meanwhile, Neryn’s beloved is in the middle of it all. It’s getting harder and harder for him to keep up the pretense of being a loyal king’s man. And how can he stand by while the Good Folk are being harmed?

Here’s how the book begins, in a Prologue that gets right into the action and the tension:

Done. He was done. No more lies; no more acts of blind savagery; no longer any need to pretend he was Keldec’s loyal retainer. His precarious double life as Enforcer and rebel spy was over. He had turned his back on it, and he was going home.

Crossing country under moonlight, he pondered what his sudden decision would mean. He would be at Shadowfell, the rebel headquarters, over the winter. He would see Neryn again: a precious gift, though there would be little time alone together in that place of cramped communal living. His arrival there would bring a double blow for the rebels, for he carried not only the news of their leader’s death, but also an alarming rumor, passed on to him by the king himself. Another Caller had been found; Neryn was not the only one. If true, these ill tidings set the rebels’ plan to challenge Keldec at next midsummer Gathering on its head. An expert Caller should be able to unite the fighting forces of humankind and Good Folk into one mighty army. He shuddered to think what might happen if two Callers opposed each other. He must take the news to Shadowfell as fast as he could. That, and his other burden.

I wasn’t willing to wait for the library to get this one – I preordered it as soon as I heard it was coming out. And I am glad I did; I will want to reread this trilogy many times, to once again enter the ancient Alban of Juliet Marillier’s brilliant imagination.

JulietMarillier.com
randomhouse.com/teens

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/caller.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on my own copy, purchased via Amazon.com.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!

Review of A Snicker of Magic, by Natalie Lloyd

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

snicker_of_magic_largeA Snicker of Magic

by Natalie Lloyd

Scholastic Press, New York, 2014. 311 pages.
Starred Review

Felicity Pickle collects words. She actually sees words rise off people and things, and she writes the best ones in her blue book. As the book starts, her nomadic mother is driving Felicity and her little sister, Frannie Jo, back to the town where she grew up.

“Midnight Gulch used to be a secret place,” Mama said. “The mountain hid the town high-up-away from the rest of the world. And the river surrounded the mountain and kept it safe. And the forest stood up tall around the river and caught all of the town’s secrets and songs in its branches.” I relaxed into the sound of her voice. Her speaking voice is wonderful, but my mama’s story voice is like nothing I’ve ever heard, like something between a summer breeze and a lullaby. “The town had to stay secret, you see, because the people who lived there had magic in their veins.”

“Real magic?” I could barely even whisper the word. Just the thought of real magic sent shivers from my nose to my toes. This time it was my heart that answered, a steady drumbeat yes inside my chest.

Yes, Yes, Yes!

“That’s the story they tell,” Mama sighed. “They say some people could catch stars in Mason jars. And some people could sing up thunderstorms and some could dance up sunflowers. Some people could bake magic into a pie, make folks fall in love, or remember something good, or forget something bad. Some people had a magic for music. . . .”

Mama’s fingers clutched knuckle-white around the steering wheel again. But she kept on telling:

“They could play a song and it would echo through the whole town, and everybody in town, no matter where they were, stood up and danced.”

She cleared her throat. “They say some people glowed in the dark. And some people faded when they were sad — first they went colorless, then totally invisible. There are so many stories. . . .”

“And this magic town is the same town where you grew up?” I asked.

She nodded.

“Then why the hayseed would you ever leave a place like that?”

“All the magic was gone by the time I lived there. There was only a two-lane road and a traffic light that always stayed green. I figured that meant the magic had moved on out. Figured I had to move on, too, if I wanted to see any of it.”

Once in Midnight Gulch, staying with Aunt Cleo, Felicity learns about a family curse — which might be why her Mama can’t stop wandering. Felicity makes a best friend and gets to know people in town and doesn’t want to leave. Her friend Jonah (who’s in a wheelchair — which is just his background, and hardly ever mentioned) urges her to do something that might break the curse. But Felicity stutters, and she’s horribly afraid of speaking in front of people. Is she cursed to wander, too? Cursed to fail at everything she does?

Normally, with fantasy books, I’m very picky about world-building and how the magic works. I didn’t think I would like this book, because it’s awfully loosey-goosey with the magic and I couldn’t really believe in things like ice cream that doesn’t need to be refrigerated (though that’s supposedly science, not magic!) or shadows that dance.

But this book was just so good-hearted, I couldn’t help but love it. Felicity’s a realistic kid, wounded by her past, but still beautifully hopeful. I like the way the words she sees aren’t always actual words. For example right at the start she sees three smoke-colored words in the exhaust coming out of their car’s tailpipe: Spunkter Sumpter Siffle-miffle.

Words that hover around cars or trains or boats or planes never make much sense. At least they don’t make much sense to me. I’m not sure if that’s how it works for other people. I know I can’t be the only word collector in the whole world, but I’ve never met anybody else who has the knack.

I like the way she calls small, seemingly insignificant magic “a snicker of magic.” I like her friendship with Jonah and Jonah’s know-hows for doing people kindnesses.

I especially liked some wise advice Felicity was given by her Mama (of all people) about memories. They’re eating some ice cream with magic that makes people remember things. She asks her mother, “How do you make it do that? How do you keep getting good memories from it?”

“It takes some practice.” Mama set the carton back down on the floor. “But even if I taste something sour, even if the bad memory comes first, I choose to replace it with a good one instead.”

“You just choose?”

Mama nodded. “It’s as simple and difficult as that. Sad memories don’t just come in ice cream, you know. Everything you touch, everything you smell, everything you taste, every picture you see — all of that has the potential to call up a sad memory. You can’t choose what comes up first. But you can choose to replace it with something good. I choose to think on the good parts.”

So yes, I could focus my review on my quibbles about how the magic works. But you know what? The good parts really do outweigh them. This is a lovely book that uplifted my spirit.

scholastic.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/snicker_of_magic.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!

Review of Grandfather Gandhi, by Arun Gandhi, Bethany Hegedus, and Evan Turk

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

grandfather_gandhi_largeGrandfather Gandhi

by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus
illustrated by Evan Turk

Atheneum Books for Young Readers, New York, 2014. 40 pages.
Starred Review

This book is shelved with the biographies in our library, and technically it’s nonfiction, but this isn’t so much the story of someone’s life as it is a true story that children will relate to and that makes a magnificent picture book.

Arun Gandhi is the grandson of the famous Mahatma, Mohandas K. Gandhi. This picture book tells the story of when he met his grandfather, who was already a revered spiritual leader.

He moved to the Sevagram ashram from South Africa when he was twelve years old, and had to adjust to no electricity or television, learning a new language, sharing his grandfather with many followers, new foods, and feeling like he could never measure up to the expectations of being a Gandhi.

It seemed everyone around him was good at peace and tranquility, but Arun kept finding anger welling up inside him. Finally, after an explosive incident on the soccer field, Arun got to talk with his grandfather, who admitted that even he felt anger. But anger, like electricity, has two sides. It can strike like lightning and cause destruction, or it can work in a lamp and bring light.

This story is specific to this boy’s upbringing, but it is universal in its appeal. Every child understands wondering if they will measure up to the expectations of others. And every child understands the difficulty of dealing with anger.

The art in this book is striking, using collage including cloth and thread. I especially liked how Arun’s anger was expressed in a cloud of black thread encircling him and the resonant shapes done with shadows.

This is a lovely book, and gently and without preaching is a vehicle for bringing up important topics. It’s all told from a child’s perspective, in a natural way, and will appeal to children and adults from any culture and any religion.

arungandhi.org
bethanyhegedus.com
evanturk.com
KIDS.SimonandSchuster.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/grandfather_gandhi.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Oops! Can you find the mistake?

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

Wearing cardigan1

Oops! Today I realized I had used the wrong shade in one of the rows of my prime factorization cardigan. I remembered I had discovered that in the process of knitting, and had planned to go over the offending line with duplicate stitch. But I forgot — so now I think I will use it as a puzzle. Can you spot the number that is out of place?

You’ll definitely need a closer look at the cardigan.

Who will be the first person to spot the error? (You can use the comments to inform me.) This person is almost as geeky as me! 🙂 Though at least I can restrain myself from taking apart the cardigan. There was an error in my Prime Factorization Sweater — but it was one of five factors of a number (probably 72), so it only involved four stitches in the wrong color. I was able to pick them out, then reinsert the right color with a yarn needle.

Oh, I should say that the error is not in row 48, which is 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 3. I didn’t want to have the pink thread loose over all four blue stitches, so I twisted the yarn after two stitches — and it ended up showing up a bit on the front, though not as much as an actual wrong stitch.

No, the error is a matter of using the wrong shade in one of the stripes. The result would be far too large a number for this sweater. And now I can use it to find out who is paying attention. 🙂

My posts on Mathematical Knitting and related topics are now gathered at Sonderknitting.

My Prime Factorization Cardigan

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

I did it! More than two years after beginning, I have finally completed my Prime Factorization Cardigan!

Wearing cardigan1

Here’s how it works! The stripes each represent a counting number. They go from left to right, cuff to cuff. 1 is black, the background color (which is a factor of everything). Then each prime gets a new color. 2 is blue; 3 is pink; 5 is yellow; 7 is purple….

Composite numbers get the combination of colors for their factors. 6 = 2 x 3, so it’s alternating blue and pink. 10 = 2 x 5, so blue and yellow. 12 = 2 x 2 x 3, so two stitches of blue followed by one of pink….

Perfect powers get multiple rows. 4 = 2 x 2, so two rows of blue; 8 = 2 x 2 x 2, so three rows of blue; 9 = 3 x 3, so two rows of pink. I think my favorite is 36 = 2 x 2 x 3 x 3, so I did two rows of alternating blue and pink.

I put labels in one picture, to give the pattern:

Labeled Cardigan1-18

As for details, I used Plymouth Encore yarn, 75% acrylic, 25% wool — it is not expensive and comes in many colors. I looked online for a pattern knitted cuff-to-cuff, and found this Rainbow Lace Jacket. I of course changed the colors. I knitted the stripes in garter stitch, and the rows in between the stripes in black stockinette.

And now for more pictures! First, an overall look at the sweater again:

PF Cardigan Front

And with the arms down:

PF Cardigan arms down

And the back: (I decided to make the numbers go two-dimensionally across the sweater, from cuff to cuff. So the back is a mirror of the front.)

PF Cardigan Back

And here’s more detail, Numbers 17 to 32 (The powers of 2 are easy to spot! They are the multiple rows of blue.):

Cardigan17-32

Then Numbers 26 to 38:

Cardigan26-38

34 to 47:

Cardigan34-47

41 to 58:

Cardigan41-58

51 to 63:

Cardigan51-63

And finally, 64 to 78:

Cardigan64-78

There you have it! The latest in my prime factorization knitting adventures. Let’s see, I feel compelled to summarize what I’ve done.

It began with the Prime Factorization Sweater.

prime-factorization-sweater

Then when that became wildly popular on the internet, I made a Prime Factorization T-shirt. (These are available for sale, by the way.)

Twitter Profile

I experimented with stripes when I made my Prime Factorization Scarf, and planned out how to do this cardigan.

Prime Factorization Scarf

Then my siblings were expecting babies. For my sister’s baby, I knitted a Coded Blessing Blanket.

Blessing Blanket

For my brother’s baby, nothing but a Prime Factorization Blanket would do.

prime_factorization_blanket

Which got me going on a Pascal’s Triangle Shawl.

PascalsTriangleShawl

Which got me to start another, prettier one (Still not finished).

Pascals Colors

And brings me back to the Prime Factorization Cardigan!

Wearing cardigan hands down

My posts on Mathematical Knitting and related topics are now gathered at Sonderknitting.

Review of “Shouldn’t You Be in School?” by Lemony Snicket

Saturday, November 1st, 2014

shouldnt_you_be_in_school_large“Shouldn’t You Be in School?”

All the Wrong Questions, Book 3

by Lemony Snicket

art by Seth

Little, Brown and Company, New York, 2014. 325 pages.
Starred Review

I wish I could have listened to this book, like I did the first two “Wrong Questions.” The narrator reads them with the perfect crime noir voice. However, reading the book has the advantage that I could enjoy the illustrations and that now I can quote bits.

This book is wonderfully clever. The plotting is complex, and you definitely should read the first two books first. In fact, I may have missed some crucial information by not yet reading File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents. Though this book says it is number 3, so I probably was just forgetting some details, because it had been awhile since I listened to the first two books.

“Shouldn’t You Be in School?” is a question that 13-year-old Lemony Snicket gets asked several times in this book, as he continues to investigate suspicious incidents in the town of Stain’d-by-the-Sea. Right from the beginning, there are instances of arson and evidence of a further plot by Hangfire. And several people in the town seem to be aiding Hangfire. Whom can young Snicket trust?

The author’s tone is delightful. I love the way he defines words and then they come up over and over again. In this book, the term “fragmentary plot” comes up over and over again, as he assembles a team of schoolchildren to help him, and each one has a part in the plan.

All the books begin similarly, and this is where I imagine Liam Aiken’s voice reading to me:

There was a town, and there was a librarian, and there was a fire. While I was in town I was hired to investigate this fire, and I thought the librarian could help me bring a villain to justice. I was almost thirteen and I was wrong. I was wrong about all of it. I should have asked the question “Why would someone destroy one building when they really wanted to destroy another?” Instead, I asked the wrong questions — four wrong questions, more or less. This is the account of the third.

We learn more bits about Lemony Snicket’s background in this book, and he works on thwarting one part of Hangfire’s plot. He gains some excellent allies in this episode. But overall enlightenment about what’s going on? I’ll be waiting eagerly for the fourth book.

This day was no different. It was like all the other days during my time in Stain’d-by-the-Sea, where every person had a secret, and beneath all the secrets was a great, slippery mystery, like a creature lurking in the depths of the sea.

LemonySnicketLibrary.com
lb-kids.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/shouldnt_you_be_in_school.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!